Supreme Court to hear free speech challenge to Calif. abortion disclosure law

Supreme Court to hear free speech challenge to Calif. abortion disclosure law
© Getty

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case challenging a California law that requires licensed pregnancy centers run by religious nonprofits to post notices informing women how to get information on state-funded abortions and birth control.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) claims California’s Reproductive FACT Act forces the centers to send a message that directly contradicts their anti-abortion message, violating the First Amendment's right to free speech.

ADVERTISEMENT

The law also requires nonmedical, unlicensed pregnancy centers to disclose in print and digital ads they are not a licensed medical facility.

California argues the law, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block, is the most effective way to ensure that women quickly obtain the information and services they need.

The state said in court briefs that about 700,000 California women become pregnant each year and more than half of those pregnancies are unintended.

“First, many women cannot afford medical care on their own, and are unaware of the public programs that are available to them,” state attorneys argued in court briefs.

The disclosure notice must state: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women” and include the phone number for contacting the county's social services.

NIFLA argues there’s an “unmistakable advocacy component” to requiring pregnancy centers to tell women that California has programs that offer subsidized abortion and force them to urge women to “contact the county” for the information.

“If telling someone how to get a free abortion does not convey a particular viewpoint on abortion, it is difficult to think of what does,” the group argued.

— This report was last updated at 10:56 a.m.